Awe-Inducing Moments Can Alleviate Stress
I just came back from visiting my long-distance family and I’m reminded of the power of a change of pace to stimulate the mind and alleviate stress. You need not have a luxury vacation to recharge your battery and destress. Consider the psychology about why time away matters and how it impacts your health and mental wellbeing.
Why Time Off is Rejuvenating
Sarah Goff-Dupont, a writer for Atlassian whom I follow wrote a great piece about the burn-out busting benefits of taking a vacation. She interviewed Dr. Susan Kraus Whitbourne, a professor of Psychology and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, who shared the following:
“Chronic stress takes its toll in part on our body’s ability to resist infection and maintain vital functions. Mentally, not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse, and you’ll make poorer decisions.”
Since chronic stress can impair memory and decision-making, vacations, or time away are essential for your body and your mind to recharge.
The Power of Awe
When was the last time you were truly awestruck by experiencing something different? Awe elevates us from our mundane, everyday concerns according to Goff-Dupont. An Arizona State University study found that awe leaves you less susceptible to being persuaded by weak arguments and allows you to focus with more clarity when you do return to work.
If your summer sojourn does not include an exotic destination, you can still experience awe. We hiked a local nature preserve and marveled at orchids in a botanical greenhouse with vibrant colors and fragrances. Stimulating all five senses with something new is invigorating and simple.
Playing with my young nieces and nephews was a joyful experience. Swimming and splashing in a pool were refreshing in the intense summer heat and the physical activity melted away stress. In a world where we must take ownership of our health and wellbeing, these small changes help stress melt away significantly. Give yourself permission to schedule playtime into your life every day.
Time With Loved Ones
My family lives 750 miles away, so although we talk frequently by phone, in-person visits happen only a few times a year. Spending time with those you care about stimulates the release of oxytocin, the brain chemical that enables you to feel trust and social support. Spending time with my far away family is a gift for me, and I can sense a surge in my overall wellbeing when we are together.
Mix it Up
The monotony of a predictable daily routine can also create an energy slump. Start mixing it up with something simple like taking a new route to work, or ordering a different coffee drink, or cooking a meal that is uncharacteristic in your repertoire of favorites.
I rearranged furniture in a room in my home and the small (and free) change makes it feel like a whole new space that I am experiencing with fresh eyes.
Consider how you can insert awe into your daily life, so it need not be reserved only for vacation time. Take time to revel in what’s different. Stimulate all your senses and reach out to friends or family that you don’t have the luxury of seeing on a regular basis.
Changing your routine, finding novel experiences, and connecting with your loved ones may be exactly what you need to reduce your stress and help you discover what’s awesome.